Olivia Trani is the Communications Officer at the European Geosciences Union. She is responsible for the management of the Union's social media presence and the EGU blogs, where she writes regularly for the EGU's official blog, GeoLog. She is also the point of contact for early career scientists (ECS) at the EGU Office. Olivia has a MS in Science Journalism from Boston University and her work has appeared on WBUR-FM, Inside Science News Service, and the American Geophysical Union. Olivia tweets at @oliviatrani.
Inter- and transdisciplinary Sessions (ITS) at the conference aim is to foster and facilitate exchange of knowledge across scientific divisions. (Credit: EGU/Foto Pluegl)
Do you enjoy the EGU’s annual General Assembly but wish you could play a more active role in shaping the scientific programme? Now is your chance! But hurry, the session submission deadline is fast approaching. You’ve got until September 6th to propose changes.
As well as the standard scientific sessions, subdivided by Programme Groups, EGU coordinates Inter- and Transdisciplinary Sessions (ITS) at the conference.
Now, you may be asking yourself: what exactly are ITS?
Interdisciplinarity looks for links between disciplines in a coordinated and coherent effort, with the aim of creating new approaches that would not be possible if handled separately.
Transdisciplinarity transcends traditional boundaries of disciplines by reaching out to, for example, social, economic, and political sciences.
The Earth, oceans, space and society are interconnected in many different ways; rarely can one system be perturbed without others being affected too.
The aim of ITS is to foster and facilitate exchange of knowledge both across scientific divisions. These sessions should either link disciplines within the geosciences in a novel way to address specific (and often new) problems (interdisciplinary sessions) or link the geosciences to other disciplines, in particular from the humanities, to address societal challenges (transdisciplinary sessions).
If inter- and transdisciplinarity is important to you and your work, know that you too can co-organise your session as an Inter- and Transdisciplinary Session. Read on to discover how!
The skeleton programme for the 2019 General Assembly currently features three ITS themes and a general open call for ITS sessions:
ITS1: History of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences
ITS2: Resources and the energy transition
ITS3: Contributions of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences to changes in society
ITS4: Open call for ITS sessions
Sessions within each of these ITS themes will be scheduled closely together, to foster cross-division links and collaborations.
To propose a session in one of the planned inter- and transdisciplinary themes, follow these simple steps:
The Gower Peninsula in South Wales, United Kingdom, is a spectacular site to view a sunset. However, to geologists, the shore is also a prime spot to find artifacts from Earth’s ancient and recent past.
“The limestone coastline is dotted with caves that are rich in Quaternary flora and fauna,” said Mike Smith a visiting researcher at Plymouth University (UK) and photographer of this featured image. “Including the famous Red Lady of Paviland, the oldest known ceremonial burial in Western Europe, at 30,000 years before present.”
The peninsula is also known for its “dramatic and visible evidence of climate change over a range of temporal scales,” according to Smith.
A solifluction terrace on the Rhossili Bay in the Gower Peninsula. Credit: Stephen Codrington. Planet Geography 3rd Edition, 2005 (distributed via Wikimedia Commons).
For example, at the peak of Earth’s most recent glacial period, when the northern ice sheets had made their greatest advances southward, the Gower Peninsula was one of the southern most regions overcome by ice.
Though the last glacial period ended more than 11,00 years ago, you can find evidence of this tundra environment today, if you know what to look for.
For instance, much of the Peninsula’s coastlines are lined by small steeply sloping ridges, separating the coast’s green hillslopes from its sandy beaches. These structures are often referred to as solifluction terraces, and are formed when frozen ground thaws, causing soil, rock and other debris to move downslope.
Additionally, the Gower Peninsula is also host to remnants of our very recent history.
Pictured above are the remains of the shipwrecked Helvetica, a cargo vessel from the late 19th century that had been transporting 500 tons of timber before meeting its untimely end on the banks of Worm’s Head, a small rocky island just a few kilometres long, visible from the peninsula’s shores.
On 1 November, 1887, strong gales just off the coast had taken a hold of the ship, leaving it unable to dock at Swansea Harbour. Instead, the forceful winds blew the vessel into the sandbank of Helwick Sands and then dragged the ship to its final resting place, the shores of Worm’s Head. Helvetica’s captain and crew were forced to abandon ship, and after its cargo was relocated and salvageable parts stripped away, the ship settled deep into the sand.
“The Helvetica is now permanently buried in the beach on a coastline that is bordered by extensive sand dune systems,” remarks Smith. With each year since, the Atlantic has reclaimed more of the ship, and now just the bare bones of the wreckage remain.
When it comes to supercharging your scientific skills, broadening your base science communication, or picking up tips on how to boost your career, short courses can be one of the highlights of the General Assembly programme.
But, did you know that any EGU member (you!) can propose a short course? You’ve got until 6 September 2018 to complete the application. This quick guide, will give you some pointers for submitting and organising your own short course at the EGU 2019 General Assembly!
Before you even put pen to paper and plan your workshop, remember that the courses should provide a forum to teach your General Assembly peers something of interest. Ideally, short courses should be designed to be open to all conference participants, though they can also be affiliated with one or more of the meeting’s programme groups.
Planning your short course
As the organiser, you are free to choose the content and set-up of the course. But the content should be of interest to (a subset of) the community that the EGU represents! The decision as to whether your course will be included in the final conference programme is made by the programme committee chair, Susanne Buiter, and the short course programme group chairs: the ECS Union representative Stephanie Zihms and Sam Illingworth.
To submit your course, you’ll need:
a title and a short description
the details of the course organiser
You also have the option to co-organise your course with a scientific division(s) (meaning it’ll appear in the both the Short Course Programme Group and that of your favored division(s)). You might consider doing this if your workshop is aimed at a specific community, as well as being of broad appeal.
Choosing a time-slot
If your short course submission is approved, you can specify preferences for certain time blocks, days or back-to-back scheduling online in the session tagging tool between 12-20 January 2019. Note that assignments depend on availability. No short courses will be scheduled during the poster sessions from 17:30 to 19:00 each day or on the Sunday before the conference officially opens.
All short course rooms come complete with a microphone, a data projector, a notebook, wired internet connection, and a VGA switch to use up to three individual notebooks in addition to the permanently installed one of that room. Technical assistance will also be provided in each short course room.
If you require participants to register in advance of the course, it is your responsibility as the organiser to coordinate this. Be sure to include a registration email address or a Doodle link in the description of the short course, so potential participants know how to sign-up.
Food and drink can liven up any meeting! Should you wish to provide catering throughout your workshop (at your own expense), please get in touch with the General Assembly caterer (Motto Catering) by completing their online order form before 31 March 2019. This online form will be made available by the end of the year.
Dos & Don’ts
Do make skills/abilities related to science and research the focus of your workshop
Do aim to provide training in skills needed by people working in science
Do promote your short course
Do make your course interactive or include hands-on activities (if possible)
Do let participants know (via the description) if they’ll need to bring along materials (e.g. laptop, tablet, specific software) to participate in the course
Do allow time for questions
Don’t invite too many speakers
Don’t engage in commercial activities during the course (e.g. sales)
Don’t charge admission fees or course fees – these are strictly prohibited
Drawing inspiration from popular stories on our social media channels, as well as unique and quirky research news, this monthly column aims to bring you the best of the Earth and planetary sciences from around the web.
Signs of water 55 million kilometres away
Last week scientists announced that they have found signs of existing water on Mars, offering new hope to the possibility of uncovering life on the Red Planet’s subsurface.
Radar observations made by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express satellite, suggest that a liquid lake is buried 1.5 kilometres beneath an ice cap situated near the south pole of Mars. Scientists think that this body of water is likely a few metres deep and 20 kilometres across, “nearly three times larger than the island of Manhattan,” reported Scientific American.
A schematic of how scientists used radar to find what they interpret to be liquid water beneath the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA)
For the last 12 years the Mars Express satellite has been taking measurements of Mars by sending beams of radar pulses into the planet’s immediate interior. As these waves bounce back, the brightness of the reflection gives information on the material lying beneath Mars’ surface.
The researchers involved came across this discovery while analysing three years worth of data collected by the spacecraft.
“The bluer the colors, the brighter the radar reflection from the material it bounced off. The blue triangle outlined in black in the middle is the purported lake,” reported Science News.
Previous observations, made by NASA’s Curiosity rover for example, have found lake beds on the planet’s exterior, signifying that water may have flowed on Mars in the past. However, if this new finding is confirmed, it would be the first discovery of an existing stable body of water, one of the conditions believed to be necessary for life to thrive.
Context map: NASA/Viking; THEMIS background: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University; MARSIS data: ESA/NASA/JPL/ASI/Univ. Rome; R. Orosei et al 2018 (distributed via ESA)
“We are not closer to actually detecting life,” said Manish Patel from the Open University to BBC News, “but what this finding does is give us the location of where to look on Mars. It is like a treasure map – except in this case, there will be lots of ‘X’s marking the spots.”
In their study, published in Science last week, the team remarked, “there is no reason to conclude that the presence of subsurface water on Mars is limited to a single location.”
Northern hemisphere feels the heat
In other news, the two words best describing the northern hemisphere this summer could very well “hot” and “dry,” as a series of heat waves have taken hold of several regions across Europe, Asia, North America and northern Africa. Many countries this month, including Japan, Algeria and Canada, have even experienced record-breaking temperatures.
A look at how this year’s heatwave has changed the colour of our vegetation in just one month (Credit: ESA)
For some places, above average temperatures and dry conditions have helped fuel devastating wildfires. More than 50 wildfires have swept through Scandinavian forests this summer, many well within the Arctic Circle, causing Sweden to request emergency aid from nearby countries.
Smoke rises from a wildfire in Enskogen. (Credit: Swedish Environmental Protection Agency/Maja Suslin)
A major wildfire also ignited near Athens, Greece this month, resulting in more than 85 death, with dozens still missing. While Greek officials claim that there are “serious indications” that the flames were brought upon by arson, they also note that the region’s climate conditions were extreme.
To many scientists, this onslaught of hot and dry conditions is a taste of what may soon become the norm. Of course, these conditions (in Europe, for example) are partly due to weather. “The jet stream – the west-to-east winds that play a big role in determining Europe’s weather – has been further north than usual for about two months,” reports the Guardian, leading to sweltering conditions in the UK and much of Europe, while leaving Iceland cool and stormy.
However, scientists say that heatwaves in the northern hemisphere are very much linked to global warming. “There’s no question human influence on climate is playing a huge role in this heatwave,” said Myles Allen, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, to the Guardian in the same article.
A recent assessment on the ongoing heat wave in Europe reports that these conditions are more likely to occur due to climate change. “The findings suggest that rising global temperatures have increased the likelihood of such hot temperatures by five times in Denmark, three times in the Netherlands and two times in Ireland,” said Carbon Brief.
What you might have missed
Geologists have given a name to Earth’s most recent chapter: Meghalayan Age. The announcement was made earlier this month when the International Union of Geological Sciences updated the International Chronostratigraphic Chart, which classifies Earth’s geologic time scale. The new update has divided the Holocene Epoch (the current time series which began 11,700 years ago, when the Earth was exiting its last ice age) into three stages: the Greenlandian, the Northgrippian, and then Meghalayan.
The Meghalayan Age represents the time between now and 4,200 years ago, when a mega-drought led to the collapse of many civilisations across the world. The middle phase, Northgrippian (from 8,300 years ago to 4,200 years ago), is marked by an sudden cooling event brought on by massive glacial melt in Canada that affected ocean currents. Finally the oldest phase, Greenlandian, (from 11,700 years ago to 8,300 years ago) is marked by the end of the last ice age.
The recent update has created some unrest in the geosciences community. “There is still an active debate about assigning a new geologic slice of time to reflect specifically the influence of humans on the planet,” reported BBC News. Some scientists say that the new divisions conflict with the current work being done on proposing a new epoch classification, famously called the ‘Anthropocene,’ which would be marked by the beginning on significant human impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems.
This month we released not one but two press releases from research published in our open access journals. The findings from both studies have important societal implications. Take a look at them below.
New study: oxygen loss in the coastal Baltic Sea is “unprecedentedly severe”
The Baltic Sea is home to some of the world’s largest dead zones, areas of oxygen-starved waters where most marine animals can’t survive. But while parts of this sea have long suffered from low oxygen levels, a new study by a team in Finland and Germany shows that oxygen loss in coastal areas over the past century is unprecedented in the last 1500 years. The research was published in the European Geosciences Union journal Biogeosciences.
New study puts a figure on sea-level rise following Antarctic ice shelves’ collapse
An international team of scientists has shown how much sea level would rise if Larsen C and George VI, two Antarctic ice shelves at risk of collapse, were to break up. While Larsen C has received much attention due to the break-away of a trillion-tonne iceberg from it last summer, its collapse would contribute only a few millimetres to sea-level rise. The break-up of the smaller George VI Ice Shelf would have a much larger impact. The research was published in the European Geosciences Union journal The Cryosphere.
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